Summer Mystery Challenge (Books 1, 2, 3)

I’ve never read anything by Dick Francis before even though he’s a well known mystery writer. I suppose the picture of a horse, on almost all of his covers, was a major deterrent. I am not a horse lover, although I do love good mysteries.

This book was very well written: beautiful British phrases, intricately woven details of the plot, fine character development. But the premise, discovering the person who was cutting off colts’ feet and why, was less than exciting to me. I’m still not quite sure why it won an Edgar Award, even though I did admire the ex-jockey turned investigator (Sid Halley) very much as our hero.
Overall, I finished the book with the same opinion in which I had begun it; Dick Francis is a mystery writer for horse lovers, not me.

When I look over the list of completed books I’ve read there seem to be more by Robert Parker than any other author. I will pick him up after a particularly heavy read because he is light, fascinating, and able to remove me from my present environment.

His newest novel, High Profile, deals with the murder of a right-wing conservative radio commentator (compared in several reviews to Rush Limbaugh) and his pregnant girlfriend.

I find Parker’s books to be getting more and more gruesome; take his latest Spenser novel for example, 100 Dollar Baby, which was plain shocking in its conclusion. But, even more frustrating than that, is I’m very tired of Jesse Stone not solving his issues with ex-wife Jen. For goodness sake, marry her (again) or leave her. I don’t want to read any more about this can’t live with her/can’t live without her dilemma. I’m done with it. So, this book? P.U. as my class would say.

Dashiell Hammett, a famous old mystery writer, is fairly unknown to me. I picked this up because I’m always trying to fill in my knowledge of the classics in any genre. The only other novel I’ve read by Hammett is The Maltese Falcon.

This book is completed with three chapters. Three! It was published in three installments, in Liberty magazine, on April 8, 15 and 22, 1933. His style reminded me of Ernest Hemingway’s writing: very clean, brief, and factual.

When I completed it, in fact, it was so succinct I had to go back and reread the last few pages to be sure I’d gotten it right. It’s simplicity was so beautiful it was almost complicated. I loved this book, and I can see why Robert Parker admires Hammett as well.

So, three down, three to go for the Mystery Challenge to be completed by the end of August. I’ve got to get back to book #4, The Death of a Red Heroine, now. While they’re painting my kitchen. Remodeling the kitchen isn’t all bad. When you don’t have to cook or clean, you have a lot of time to read.

21 thoughts on “Summer Mystery Challenge (Books 1, 2, 3)

  1. I liked this post- particularly because I always SAY I don't read mysteries, but when I do read them, I LOVE them. I just read my first Stephanie Plum mystery- by Janet Evanovich. I have to say that I quite liked it- a nice beach read. I've also heard that the Mommy Track mysteries by Ayelet Waldham are good- the author is married to Michael Chabon, author of "Kavalier and Clay".


  2. Oh, I just finished Kavalier and Clay. I'll have to look into his wife's writing. Mysteries are a wonderful escape, are they not? I took my first Stephanie Plum book on a trip in 2001, along with Chevalier's Girl with A Pearl Earring. Needless to say, it couldn't hold up to the interest the "earring" book held for me. But, Evanovich keeps cranking them out to great popularity.


  3. I've read a handful of Dick Francis, and while all his books have something to do with horses, many of them don't revolve around them. If you like the writing style of Francis and the only thing off-putting was the horses, Proof is a story that focuses on wine and Wild Horses is about the filming of a movie.


  4. The Dick Francis books have never appealed to me either. Thanks for reassuring me that I'm not missing anything great. ;)I feel the same about Stephanie Plum as you do about Jesse Stone. Pick Morelli or Ranger and be done with!! Too much wishy-washyness for my patience.If you need any recommendations, give Dennis Lehane's Kenzie/Gennaro series a try. They are superb! And Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar books are fun, too.


  5. Kim, unfortunately I don't like the writing style of Francis enough to try him again. I appreciate your comment, and the way that many people applaud him, but he's just not for me.myutopia, Kavalier and Clay was tough! I had to read it because I was leading the discussion for our book club, and it was good in many places, but just wouldn't end.Heidijane, thanks for tagging me. I enjoyed reading all the tips on your post. If I can think of anything new I'll add to it, but I think the suggestions I'd make were already there. Most important to me is that bloggers be kind to one another (which we all are in this little reading niche we have) and that people leave insightful comments.Les, speaking of insightful comments, you never disappoint. Comparing Staphanie Plum to Jesse Stone (in their love lives) is a great connection! I've only read one of her novels and I remember feeling the same way about her. Perhaps I have too little patience. I'll try Dennis Lehane, and I know I like Harlan Coben.


  6. Come To Grief wouldn't be the Dick Francis I'd recommend to someone looking for a first read. He's one of my favorites, but, I admit I've been a horse person forever and if you're not, you're not.I've also read all the Spenser novels by Parker, except for 100 Dollar Baby. I'm waiting for Parker to write a book that is complete told in conversations. Nothing else. He's almost there now. cjh


  7. Your comment about Parker makes me laugh: it's so true! One doesn't necessarily read him for the solution of the mystery, but more for the witty repartee. Which, can get a little tedious.


  8. Bellezza -Parker is one of those authors I read when I want to enjoy a quick, easy read with an enjoyable story. I'm rarely ever disappointed. But, yes, the witty repartee can be a bit much at times.cjh


  9. CJ, that's EXACTLY why I read him. I've read all of his books, too, except for the Sunny Randall series. I especially like Susan and Spencer and Hawk: what believable characters!


  10. Carl, I just heard a friend of mine say the reader for the Harry Potter books is fantastic. Normally, I don't listen to books because I'm a better visually than auditorally, but the right voice can create the best mood. Audio tapes are especially great for a long car trip (if they don't put you to sleep). I just bought my first copy of Stardust, thanks to all the attention you brought to it LONG before the release of the film. I'm really looking forward to reading it, although I'm way behind most of you.


  11. I listened to Come to Grief on audio, many years ago . . . in the tub, the only place I ever got any peace. I discovered listening in the tub makes tapes stick, so that was that, but I liked it on audio. I resisted Dick Francis because of the horses, too. But, I found that I really enjoyed almost every one of his books and I was sad when he decided to quit writing because of his wife's death. Oooooh, a Dashiell Hammett I haven't read!!!! Where did you find that? I must get my mitts on a copy – I adore Hammett.


  12. Hammett IS awesome. He was is so sophisticated in his writing that it's easy (for me) to view it as overly simplistic. But, as anyone who's cleaned a kitchen junk drawer knows, simple is not easy to achieve. I'm still thinking about this book, as it portrays characters in unexpected ways.I'm going to try listening to an audio version of novels in the tub. My aunt also said that was the only place she could grab any peace. She'd get in the tub with an iced tea and forget everyone clamoring at the door. (Should I install a tub in my classroom?:)


  13. LOL! Love the kitchen drawer analogy! Yes, so true. I love Hammett's writing; I dashed right over to add that title to my wish list. A tub in your classroom could be a wee bit embarrassing. Best to save that for home. But, I was just thinking . . . hey, I should get a portable CD player. Tapes didn't work, but a CD shouldn't stick, right? Bath time is still my relax time.


  14. Cool, I hope you enjoy Stardust.For the most part I only listen to audio for books I've already read or for stuff that I would never take the time to read. Most of the books I've listened to on audio are Neil Gaiman books as I love to hear him read his stories.


  15. Bookfool, I thought you were "LOL" picturing me in my classroom tub!Carl, I'm loving Stardust. I was all excited because I saw a free poster giveaway at and then I couldn't get it to work. But, if I get a free poster, I'm definitely sending it to you who introduced me to this tale. It's wonderful, and best of all, doesn't mimic Tolkein or Lewis as so many fantasy writers tend to do.


  16. Framed, you won't be disappointed with Hammett. He's concise, he's classic, and he's brilliantly understated. I want to read more of his novels because I've only picked up two, but each one was great.


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